Prine opened with "Spanish Pipedream" and "Six O'Clock News" from his first LP, which by any accounts is one of the great debut recordings by any singer/songwriter. By the end of the evening, over a nearly 2 hour set, Prine played a total of six songs from the album. After all, it's some of his finest work, and showcases his ability to create characters, strip raw emotions and situations down to plain language, and open up the listener's empathy with raw evocation that's never sappy or saccharine. For instance, halfway through the set, with a moderately rowdy bunch of fans shouting requests, Prine brought the crowd to a hushed whisper when he launched into the achingly beautiful "Angel From Montgomery," as potent evocation of an aging woman's feelings as any man is capable of writing. He also played "Sam Stone," about the drug addled veteran who comes home from "the conflict overseas" sporting "a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes."
As if that wasn't enough from his first album, he delivered another crowd-stilling moment with a version of "Hello In There," again about aging, lonely people, and wrapped up the show with "Paradise," his song about the lost town of Paradise, Kentucky, which was razed by a coal company.
But Prine didn't just bask in past glories - his set list was a balanced mix of earlier fare and songs from the last couple of decades, including his Grammy-winning 2005 album Fair & Square.
Prine sounded in fine form, even if his range isn't as great and his voice a bit huskier after his battle with throat cancer. All told, a great evening of music from an American legend.
John Prine Set List:
Roanoke, VA Feb 21, 2009
With Dave Jacques, electric and upright bass, backing vocals
Jason Wilber, guitars & mandolin, backing vocals
Six O’Clock News
Grandpa Was A Carpenter
Fish and Whistle
Glory of True Love
Far From Me
Angel from Montgomery
It’s A Big Old Goofy World
Please Don’t Bury Me
Bear Creek Blues
That’s Alright By Me
Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody
Hello In There
Killing the Blues
In Spite of Ourselves (duet with Carrie Rodriguez)
Paradise (with Carrie Rodriguez, vocals, fiddle)Credit: Photo of John Prine live in 2008 from the JPShrine fan site.